Your child did a piece of drawing or painting and he shows it to you. What is your immediate response? There's a high chance that it'll be "Good job!" or "Lovely!" or "What a pretty picture!" or even "Oh I love it". I hear these all the time when it's home time and the children show their parents their artwork.
What's wrong with these responses, you might be thinking. After all, aren't they just positive reinforcements that aim at boosting children's self-esteem? No they aren't. Let me explain why.
Firstly, none of these phrases tell your child how she's doing. They don't give her feedback on what she's doing that's working. They're just empty phrases that can actually demotivate your child. If you tell your child whatever she does is great all the time no matter what she's made then you're just building up her ego. So now she's thinking she can do no wrong so what happens when she doesn't get this same recognition from others? It'll be a blow to her self-esteem.
Art Is A Process For Young Children
When your child shows you her artwork, she's showing you the processes of what she can do. She's showing you that she can make marks, can use a brush, can draw straight or curved lines, can cut and glue things and so on. She's not showing you her finished product. She's showing you how she got there. Comment on what you see. "Look at the little bits of paper that you've glues here" or "You've put lots of pink blobs here."
Don't Assume What The Artwork Is About
When your child is doing art, she's just experiencing and experimenting with the materials. She's not trying to produce a masterpiece. Whatever she's painting or making doesn't necessarily have to be something. Don't assume that it's a picture of a flower or a person unless it's clear that it is. Instead, just describe what you see. "I see lots of blue dots" or "There are colourful lines in your painting".
Start Connecting With Your Child Through Her Artwork
Children's artwork can lead to great conversations. This can only happen if you don't ask your child what it is that she had painted or made. Remember that it's a process so it doesn't have to be anything. Have you ever asked your child what she's made and she looks at you blankly? This is because she herself doesn't know what it is, she just painted.
Take this little girl for example, if she showed me her painting and I'd said, "Oh it's lovely! Is that your family at the beach?" She can agree with me and say yes and that would be the end of the conversation. But if I said, "I can see a thick light blue line and patch at the bottom and five people in your painting" she can start to explain to me what the light blue area is and who the five people are. I can then comment on the blue dots in the sky and she'll be able to tell me more about them.
Here are some children's artwork for your enjoyment. These children are a bit older and they're past the experimenting stage.